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Exploring the Advantages of College Consortiums

By Judy, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor

When you’re looking at colleges, you might come across the term “consortium,” which refers to a group of colleges that collaborate to expand the resources and opportunities available to their students. For high school students considering their future college options, it’s important to understand what consortium colleges can offer. Let’s dive into what these consortiums are and highlight some examples to help you see the unique opportunities they provide.

What Is a College Consortium?

A college consortium is a group of colleges that collaborate closely to share resources, facilities, and academic courses while maintaining their independence. This arrangement allows students to take classes at any of the member institutions, participate in joint activities, and use facilities like libraries and sports centers across campuses. The primary aim is to enrich the educational experience and provide more diverse opportunities than each college could offer alone.

Benefits of Consortium Colleges

Students enrolled at consortium colleges can take advantage of numerous benefits that will enhance their overall college experience.

  • Expanded academic options: Students can typically cross-register for courses at any of the member colleges, expanding the variety of available classes. This particularly benefits students with niche interests or those looking to design a highly specialized or interdisciplinary major.
  • Shared resources: Consortium students often have access to special facilities like research labs, libraries, and art studios across all campuses. This can be a huge advantage in terms of both study and extracurricular activities.
  • Networking opportunities: Being part of a consortium effectively increases the number of peers, faculty, and alumni with whom you can connect. This expanded network can be invaluable for internships, careers, and research opportunities.
  • Cultural and social exchange: Each college in a consortium has its own unique culture and student body. Students have the chance to immerse themselves in a diverse social environment, enriching their college experience.

College Consortiums to Consider

As you build your balanced college list, you may find it worthwhile to look at consortium colleges. Let’s look at three notable consortiums — all of them include colleges that are popular with IvyWise students.

The Claremont Colleges

Located in Claremont, California, The Claremont Colleges include five undergraduate institutions that allow students to enjoy the cozy feel of a small college while benefiting from collective resources equal to a larger university. The schools in the consortium include:

  • Pomona College
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Scripps College
  • Pitzer College

Each college focuses on a different academic specialty and maintains its own campus. Students can easily access all five campuses on foot, since they are adjoining and cover about one square mile total.

The Five College Consortium

As its name suggests, the Five College Consortium is a partnership between five institutions. These colleges are located in and around Amherst, Massachusetts:

  • Amherst College
  • Hampshire College
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Smith College
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst

Students have access to 7,000 courses across the five campuses. One of the standout features is the free bus system linking the campuses, making it easy for students to take classes at any of the five institutions. This consortium is known for its collaborative music and dance programs.

The Quaker Consortium

This consortium includes one Ivy League research university and three liberal arts colleges in greater Philadelphia:

  • Swarthmore College
  • Haverford College
  • Bryn Mawr College

It’s worth noting that Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr make up the Tri-College Consortium, which offers shuttle service between the three campuses. Students wishing to take classes at Penn must find other transportation. A notable benefit of the Quaker Consortium is that students enrolled at the liberal arts colleges get the best of both worlds — an intimate campus environment with the research facilities and resources of an Ivy League institution.

How College Consortiums Work 

Using The Claremont Colleges as an example, let’s explore some ways that students benefit from a consortium’s resources.

Cross-Registration of Courses

A student majoring in environmental analysis at Pomona College can take specialized courses in environmental economics at Claremont McKenna and supplement with classes in sustainable design from Pitzer. This flexibility allows students to tailor their educational paths and access diverse viewpoints and expertise without the limitations of a single institution’s offerings.

Shared Research Opportunities and Facilities

The Claremont Colleges offer several shared research opportunities and facilities that capitalize on the collaborative environment fostered by the consortium. One notable example is the W.M. Keck Science Department, which serves as the integrated science department for Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps colleges. This unique arrangement allows students and faculty from these three institutions to work together on research projects and share state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment.

Networking and Social Interactions

The consortium structure significantly widens the social and professional circle for students. Events like the annual 5C Hackathon bring together students from all five undergraduate colleges, fostering an environment of collaboration and innovation. These interactions can lead to lasting friendships and valuable professional contacts.

Combined Extracurricular Programs

Students from any of the colleges can join a variety of clubs and organizations across the campuses. For example, a Scripps student can participate in The Claremont Colleges Debate Union — one of the top-ranked intercollegiate debate teams in the nation — even though its home base is at Pomona. Athletic teams at The Claremont Colleges have a unique structure, with students from Pomona and Pitzer joining together on 21 NCAA Division III teams, while students from Claremont McKenna, Scripps, and Harvey Mudd make up another 21 intercollegiate teams. Both Pomona-Pitzer and CMS (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) also offer broad intramural and recreational opportunities for the students on the five campuses.

Whether you are looking for a small or large college experience, consider whether a consortium might be right for you. Cross-registration, shared resources, and collaborative programs can expand opportunities beyond your own campus, enhancing your educational journey and preparing you for a successful future.

With thousands of colleges campuses across the U.S., it can be difficult to narrow down your options. Fortunately, IvyWise college admissions counselors have helped students just like you find their best-fit colleges. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary Discovery Call and learn how we can help you achieve your academic goals.

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